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Police seizing vehicles

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Queensland has laws allowing the police to impound (seize) motor vehicles for prescribed or criminal organisation offences.

Depending on the severity of the offence, the police may seize your vehicle or it may be forfeited to the state.

If you’re charged with an offence, you should get legal advice.

Prescribed offences

There are 2 types of prescribed offences.

Type 1 offences

Type 1 offences include evading police or any of the following offences committed in situations involving a speed trial, a race between motor vehicles or a burn out:

  • dangerous operation of a vehicle on a road or in a public place
  • careless driving
  • organising, promoting or taking part in racing or speed trials
  • wilfully starting a motor vehicle, or driving a motor vehicle in a way that makes unnecessary noise or smoke.

If you’re charged with a Type 1 offence the police have the power to impound (seize) your vehicle without waiting for the matter to go to court. If you’re found guilty of some repeat offences your vehicle may be forfeited to the state. Whether your vehicle will be impounded or forfeited depends on the type of offence you’ve been charged with, and if you have been previously charged with a similar offence.

Penalties for a type 1 offence

The possible penalties for a type 1 offence are:

  • first offence in a 5 year period—90 day impoundment of the vehicle
  • any further offences in a 5 year period (if you are found guilty)—your vehicle will be forfeited to the state.

If you’re charged with a further offence in a 5 year period, you miss your court date and the court issues a warrant for your arrest, then the vehicle is taken to have been forfeited to the state. You should get legal advice.

If you’re later found not guilty of the offence or the proceeding for the offence is discontinued, and the vehicle has been sold or disposed of because you missed your court date, you may be able to get compensation. You should get legal advice.

Type 2 offences

Type 2 offences include:

  • driving an uninsured and unregistered vehicle
  • unlicensed driving
  • a high range drink driving offence where your blood alcohol content is 0.15% or over, or you fail to provide a blood or breath specimen
  • exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km an hour
  • driving an illegally modified vehicle not complying with prescribed sections of the vehicle standards and safety
  • driving while under a 24 hour suspension.

Depending on how many previous offences you have committed, your vehicle may be impounded or forfeited  to the state.

Penalties for type 2 offences

The possible penalties for a type 2 offence are:

  • first offence in a 5 year period—no impoundment
  • second offence in a 5 year period—7 day impoundment
  • third offence in a 5 year period—90 day impoundment
  • fourth offence in a 5 year period—if you are found guilty your vehicle will be forfeited  to the state.

If you’re charged with a fourth or further offence in a 5 year period, you miss your court date and the court issues a warrant for your arrest, then the vehicle is taken to have been forfeited  to the state. Get legal advice.

If you’re later found not guilty of the offence or the proceeding for the offence is discontinued, and the vehicle has been sold or disposed of because you missed your court date, you may be able to get compensation. Get legal advice.

Criminal organisation offences

Criminal organisation offences are committed by someone who is a participant in a criminal organisation and include:

  • being in a public place with 2 or more people who are also part of a criminal organisation
  • entering or attempting to enter a ‘prescribed place’
  • entering or attempting to enter a ‘prescribed event’
  • taking part in a fight in a public place
  • failing to stop a motor vehicle when directed to stop by a police officer.

For more information see participating in a criminal organisation.

If you’re charged with a criminal organisation offence and a motor vehicle was used during the offence or to drive to and from the place where the offence was committed, the police can impound (seize) the vehicle.  It may be impounded until the end of the proceedings for all charges relating to the motor vehicle. If you are found guilty of a criminal organisation offence, the motor vehicle will be forfeited to the state.

If you miss your court date and the court issues a warrant for your arrest, then the vehicle is taken to have been forfeited to the state. You should get legal advice.

If you’re later found not guilty of the offence or the proceeding for the offence is discontinued, and the vehicle has been sold or disposed of because you missed your court date, you may be able to get compensation. Get legal advice.

 How can the police impound (seize) my vehicle?

There are a number of ways the police can impound (seize) your vehicle including:

  • towing and storing your vehicle at a holding yard
  • removing and confiscating the vehicle’s number plates and attaching a number plate confiscation notice
  • attaching an immobilising device or arranging for an immobilising device to be attached to a motor vehicle
  • serving a vehicle production notice on the owner or driver of the motor vehicle requiring them to produce the vehicle at a stated place and time for impoundment or immobilisation.

As soon as reasonably possible after impounding (seizing) the vehicle, the police must give written notice to the driver and owner of the vehicle.

There are penalties for interfering with vehicle impoundment (seizing) including:

  • failing to produce a vehicle when ordered
  • removing or tampering with an immobilising device or number plate confiscation notice
  • attempting to operate a vehicle with a number plate confiscation notice or immobilising notice attached.

Releasing an impounded or immobilised vehicle

If the vehicle is being unlawfully used, has been stolen, or is a rental motor vehicle, it must be released to the owner as soon as reasonably possible.

Can I apply to have an impounded vehicle released?

If you’re an ‘eligible person’ (the owner or usual driver of the motor vehicle) you can apply to the Commissioner of Police or his delegate for an impounded vehicle to be released if:

  • it will cause severe financial hardship to you or your family by depriving you of your means of earning a living
  • it will cause severe physical hardship to you or your family
  • the impoundment was due to the vehicle being unregistered or the driver being unlicensed and this issue has been resolved
  • the impoundment was due to a criminal organisation offence and the offender is not a participant in a criminal organisation
  • there were no reasonable grounds to impound or immobilise the motor vehicle.

The owner can apply to the commissioner or his delegate to release the impounded vehicle if the offence occurred without their consent.

The commissioner has 5 days to decide whether to release the motor vehicle. They may impose conditions on the vehicle’s release, for example, not allowing a certain offender to drive the vehicle. If these conditions are breached, the vehicle may be re-impounded for the remainder of the impoundment period.

You should get legal advice.

Appealing the commissioner’s decision

You can appeal the commissioner’s decision to the Magistrates Court. The magistrate has the power to confirm the commissioner’s decision or set aside the decision and substitute it will another that they consider appropriate.

The notice of appeal must be filed in the Magistrates Court within 28 days after you are given an information notice for the commissioner’s decision.
You should get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • have been charged with a prescribed offence
  • have been charged with a criminal organisation offence 
  • have had your vehicle impounded by a police officer
  • want to apply to the Commissioner of Police to have an impounded vehicle released 
  • want to appeal the commissioner's decision to the Magistrates Court.

Important:
If you’re charged with an offence, you should ask Police Prosecutions for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9)—this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice.  You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can’t collect it on your first court date you’ll need to apply to Police Prosecutions for a copy. You’ll need to make a written request and show photo ID.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about motor vehicle impounding laws. 

These services may also be able to give you legal advice.

Community legal centres may give legal advice on drink driving matters. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for collecting and enforcing unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and offender recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay SPER weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

Queensland Traffic Offenders Program is an educational court diversion program for first and second time offenders who want to plead guilty to a traffic offence, including drink driving, unsafe driving, disqualified driving, suspended licence and appealing licence disqualifications (fees apply for this service).

Department of Transport and Main Roads deals with complaints and inquiries about driver licences, registration and traffic fines.

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